The Wahkiakum County Eagle - Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Robotics Club has opportunity to handle surgical robot

 

October 26, 2017

The da Vinci Representative Jeff Gillam and Dr. Disher talking to the kids about how the robot works and the surgeries it helps to perform. The robot "Charlotte" is against the back wall. Photo by Jessica Vik.

Submitted by Kelly Love

Students from Wahkiakum County have a new understanding of how robots help surgeons after a visit to Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.

Leslie Disher, M.D., brought them into the operating room to see how surgical robots work, providing a demonstration of the da Vinci XI used at Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center.

"As program coordinator it has been my dream to get our 4-H Club into a hospital to see the robotics used for surgery," said Jessica Vik. "This was such a cool experience for all of us. Seeing the kids faces after running "Charlotte" was priceless."

Twelve students ages seven to 17 crowded into the operating room to see how the robot works. It is the most advanced minimally invasive option for complex colorectal, general and gynecologic surgery. The robot allows the surgeon to access the entire abdomen of the patient safely controlling and utilizing four robotic arms with magnified 3-D vision. Pinpoint incisions and micro cameras allow surgeons to work inside the body without exposing it to the open air; reducing chance of infection and improving the recovery process. It's nicknamed "Charlotte" because of its multiple arms hanging from overhead giving the appearance of a robotic spider.

The students' reaction?

"The 3-D visual is amazing! It's like virtual reality. I haven't seen robotics like this before; wow!," said Ryan McKay-Beach, 15.

"It was kind of like virtual reality almost; just different; very cool," said Montana Stephens, 11. "I like being on the robotics team because it's very individual. You can use your imagination and common sense to try things with the robot and learn how to make it happen."

The Cathlamet robotics club is part of the 4-H club. the team travels to competitions around the state.

"Robotics is an integration of various fields of engineering like mechanical, communications, computer science and electrical, combined with the arts. It's about people, communication and problem solving," said 4-H director, Carrie Backman. "We came up with the "robotics" club in our community to bring out the talents and creativity of the individual working in teams, and to provide extra knowledge on innovative edges."

The robots run the gamut, from quite simple like a manually-controlled Sumo robot to complex types like automated line tracer, obstacle tracers, or full "dance teams." The club provides the workspace and tools.

Robotics club students pay close attention to the demonstration. Photo by Kelly Love.

Seven-year-old Annelise Vik is one of the younger members on the team "It's exciting when the robot does what you wanted it to do, it means I programmed it right. It can be frustrating too. It's fun to learn," she said.

"The students can see how computers, software, robotics and surgery all come together," said Jeff Gillam, who provides the hospital support with the robotic system and helped coordinate this field trip. "It opens their minds to what may be possible now and in the future."

High School senior Chuckie Barton says he can see himself working in this field. He's taught himself how to code and program with growing sophistication. Seeing the surgical robot shows him the potential for complex programming that has real life and even life saving application.

 

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